15,000 days since the Cleveland walk-a-thon

15,000 days ago was a brutally ugly day for pitching. One team set a mark that day that no team wants to set. On Sept. 14, 1971, the Cleveland Indians pitching staff issued more free passes than any other team has in one game since at least 1918. Admittedly, it was a long, seemingly never-ending marathon 20-inning game, but still, they walked more than any team in one game since World War I: 19 in all.

It didn’t really start of that badly for Cleveland. Hosting the Washington Senators, Cleveland starting pitcher Steve Dunning didn’t have pinpoint control, but he wasn’t doing that badly, either.

Dunning walked a batter in the first and another in the second, but that was it through four. Sure, he walked two guys in the fourth—and one of them scored a run—but by and large, he did fine. Dunning pitched seven innings, allowing five walks and five hits, and when he left the game he was in line for a win with Cleveland up, 5-2.

Ed Farmer, the first reliever on the night, walked one batter in a scoreless eighth, but when he walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, manager Alvin Dark pulled him. Unfortunately for everyone involved, new reliever Phil Hennigan couldn’t get any outs. He allowed four hits to tie the game, 5-5. Well, at least he didn’t walk anyone.

Into overtime the game went with Cleveland still having walked “only” seven men in nine innings. Ray Lamb retired every batter he faced before being pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th. Cleveland had the bases loaded with two out and the pitcher due up, but they couldn’t score, and onward the game went.

Dark called on Steve Hargan to pitch long relief, and Hargan delivered, throwing five scoreless innings. His only really dangerous moment came in the 13th when he loaded the bases on a single and two walks, but he got out of the jam to keep the game going. That inning was an aberration, though, as, aside from that frame, Hargan allowed just two other base runners, one hit and one walk. When he left, the game was still 5-5 after 15 frames, and the Indians had issued just 10 of their 19 walks in the game.

The game had five innings more to go, and here’s where control really became a problem for the Indians. Mark Ballinger began the 16th on the mound for Cleveland, but he didn’t end the inning there. He walked two batters to create a new Washington rally. New reliever Mike Paul ended the frame without allowing a run, but not before issuing a walk of his own. That was three walks in one inning, 13 on the night.

By this time, Dark had burnt through nearly his entire bullpen. He didn’t trust Paul, maybe his worst arm, with the game still winnable, so Dark turned to veteran workhorse Sudden Sam McDowell.

For the past several years, McDowell had been a great pitcher for Cleveland, but 1971 was the year his arm began to wear out. He led the league in strikeouts in five of the previous six seasons, but despite being just 27 years old, he would never do it again. He would, however, lead the league in walks for the fifth time in his career, setting a personal “best” with 153 issued..

McDowell entered in the 17th and didn’t walk anyone. In the 18th, though, he issued a two-out walk to Toby Harrah. When Harrah advanced to second on a pick-off play gone wrong, McDowell issued Cleveland’s only intentional walk of the night to set up the force. It worked, and a groundout ended the inning, but Cleveland was now up to 15 walks issued on the night, climbing up the leaderboard.

In the 19th, McDowell issue another two-out walk, No. 16 on the evening. Then came the 20th, and final, frame.

It began, off-course, with a leadoff walk to Elliot Maddox. That’s 17. A few minutes later, he scored on an error. Washington kept the rally going and added an insurance run for a 7-5 lead. Then McDowell completely lost his control. Walk No. 18 went to Del Unser to load the bases with one out. 18 walks is bad, but just two years earlier the Seattle Pilots walked 18 in an 18-inning game. The Red Sox had issued 18 walks in a game back in 1948, as had the Tigers in 1920. So 18 had been done, but that was the most in the live-ball era.

Next up was Tim McCraw, whom McDowell promptly walked to drive in a run. Not only was that an RBI walk, but it was the 19th of the night. That’s the most by any team since at least 1918.

McDowell himself took a walk to the showers after that, and new pitcher Steve Mingori got a double play to end the inning, and shortly after that the game ended with a 8-5 loss for Cleveland, but not before they’d walked 19 men in one game, a lively ball era record, a record set 15,000 days ago.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.


3,000 days since Mark Buehrle throws a no-hitter.

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6,000 days since Marge Schott tells a reporter that Adolf Hitler “was good in the beginning, but then he went too far.”

8,000 days since Texas releases Jamie Moyer.

15,000 days since Hank Aaron passes Stan Musial as the all-time National League leader in RBIs.

15,000 days since Bill Stoneman becomes the last Expos reliever to throw nine inning in relief. It’s actually the last time any team in the current NL East has a reliever do this.

15,000 days since Joe Torre suffers his worst game ever according to WPA: 1-for-5 with a strikeout for a –0.568 WPA in a 5-4 Phillies win over Torre’s Cardinals.

20,000 days since the birth of Ron Kittle, a Rookie of the Year Award winner.


1885 Jimmy Ryan, center fielder, makes his big league debut.

1887 Donie Bush, shortstop, is born.

1887 Phillies pitcher Charlie Ferguson appears in his last game. The young hurler has been great so far in his career, but he’ll soon die of an illness, becoming the first prominent major league player to die.

1899 The Cubs play an odd doubleheader, one game against two different teams each. Chicago tops Louisville and Cleveland today.

1907 Game One of the World Series between the Cubs and Tigers ends in a 3-3 tie after 12 innings due to darkness.

1908 The Giants and Cubs replay the Fred Merkle game, and the Cubs win, 4-2, over the Giants. The team doctor for the Giants tries to bribe home plate umpire Bill Klem before the game.

1912 The Red Sox top the Giants, 4-3, thank to a walk-off run in the bottom of the ninth in Game One of their World Series.

1913 In one of the greatest duels in World Series history, Christy Mathewson and the Giants top Gettysburg Eddie Plank and the A’s, 3-0 in 10 innings.

1917 Danny Murtaugh, longtime Pirates manager, is born.

1919 The Black Sox win behind pitcher Eddie Cicotte, 4-1, over the Reds in Game Seven of the World Series. The Sox are by and large upset that they haven’t been paid, and Cicotte, even though he has been paid, pitches his best for once.

1925 The Pirates top Washington, 3-2, in Game Two of their Fall Classic. There is plenty of late action as it’s 1-1 in the middle of the eighth. Then Pittsburgh scores twice to take the lead and holds off a ninth-inning Senators rally for the win.

1927 The Murders Row Yankees, maybe the best team of all time, complete their World Series sweep of the Pirates, winning, 4-3. This is the closest game of the Series, as the Yankees score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

1929 Howard Ehmke has one of the greatest October pitching performances of all time. The slow-tossing crafty veteran is the surprise started for Connie Mack’s A’s, and Ehmke delivers, setting a new World Series record by striking out 13 Cubs in a 3-1 win in Game One.

1934 Game Six of the World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers results in a controversial 4-3 Cardinals win to force a Game Seven. The win is controversial because of an umpire’s call that the Tigers insist was bogus, but beyond that I don’t know what happened.

1936 The Cubs trade star pitcher Lon Warneke to the Cardinals for Ripper Collins and another player.

1936 Red Ames, once a very good pitcher, dies.

1939 It’s “Schnozz’s Snooze.” Schnozz is the not-so-affectionate nickname for the large-nosed Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi. In the top of the 10th inning in Game Four of the Yankees-Reds World Series, there is a play at the plate with a Yankee trying to score. The throw from the outfield beats the runner—but it hits Lombardi in the protective cup. He’s in great pain and unable to make the play. The Yankees score two runs on that play and three in the inning for a 7-4 win. This completes a Series sweep and gives the Yankees an unprecedented fourth consecutive world title.

1940 The Reds clinch their first World Series, topping the Tigers, 4-3, in Game Seven. Reporters call the key play the “$50,000 Snooze” as Tigers infielder Dick Bartell doesn’t turn around to see Cincinnati’s Frank McCormick score the winning run, though McCormick could’ve been thrown out at home.

1941 The Cubs release Charlie Root, still the all-time winningest pitcher in franchise history.

1941 Cincinnati releases veteran outfielder Lloyd Waner.

1944 The Cardinals top the Browns, 2-0, in a pitchers’ duel in Game Five of the World Series. It’s scoreless until the sixth inning. The Cardinals are now one game away from a world title.

1945 For the last time, the Cubs win a World Series game. They top the Tigers, 8-7 in 12 innings, in Game Six to force a Game Seven, which of course Chicago will lose.

1946 Paul Splittorff, Royals finesse pitcher, is born.

1948 Al Orth, turn-of-the-century 200-game winner, is born.

1948 Cleveland’s Gene Bearden pitchers a complete-game shutout for a 2-0 Indians win over the Braves in Game Three of the World Series. There are a total of 10 hits in the game, five by each team.

1949 Enos Cabell is born.

1951 Bill Veeck hires Rogers Hornsby to manage the Browns. Veeck later will admit this is maybe the biggest mistake of his life and the one time he did what his critics always accused him of doing, putting public relations ahead of baseball.

1956 St. Louis releases Jim Konstanty, who was the 1950 NL MVP with the Phillies.

1956 It’s one of the most famous games of all time as Don Larsen throws a perfect game in the World Series for a 2-0 win over the Dodgers.

1957 Walter O’Malley officially announces that the Dodgers are moving to Los Angeles.

1958 The Giants send pitcher Ernie Broglio to St. Louis in a five-player deal.

1958 The Yankees stay alive in the World Series. Down three games to two, they top the Milwaukee Braves in Game Six, 4-3 in 10 innings. It was 2-2 entering the 10th inning, too.

1959 Mike Morgan, four-decade player, is born.

1963 St. Louis signs free agent pitcher Steve Carlton.

1966 Baltimore tops the Dodgers, 1-0, in Game Three of the World Series behind a complete-game, six-hit shutout by Wally Bunker. For their part, the Orioles get only three hits, but one is a Paul Blair home run.

1967 Bob Gibson throws one of his trademark World Series complete-game shutouts in a 6-0 win over the Red Sox in Game Four.

1969 The Dodgers release aging third baseman Ken Boyer.

1969 The Giants release Daddy Wags Leon Wagner.

1972 The story isn’t that the A’s top the Tigers in Game Two of the ALCS, 5-0, behind a three-hit shutout by Blue Moon Odom, though that does happen. The story is that A’s star Bert Campaneris whips his bat at Tigers pitcher Larrin LaGrow. There was bad blood between these teams in the regular season, and clearly Campaneris lets it get to him. He’s ejected and will be suspended for the rest of the ALCS. He’ll play in the World Series, though.

1973 Another year, another memorable fight in the LCS. This time it’s in the NLCS where Cincinnati’s Pete Rose and the Mets’ Bud Harrelson go at it in New York’s 9-2 win in Game Three.

1974 The A’s stop the Orioles, 1-0, on a two-hit shutout by Vida Blue. That’s enough to overcome a complete-game four-hitter by Jim Palmer. Sal Bando’s homer is the game’s only run.

1978 Former Dodger infielder Jim Gilliam dies too young at age 49.

1980 One of the greatest NLCS ever features the Astros topping the Phillies, 7-4 in 10 innings, in Game Two.

1983 The Orioles clinch the pennant in a 3-0, 10-inning win over the White Sox in Game Four of the ALCS.

1986 Maybe the greatest LCS ever begins with Houston’s Mike Scott absolutely dominating the Mets, 1-0, in a complete-game shutout and 14 strikeouts.

1993 The Astros sign amateur free agent pitcher Freddy Garcia.

1995 The first and still maybe greatest LDS of all time ends with the Mariners topping the Yankees, 6-5 in 11 innings. The Yankees scored once in the top of the 11th to take the lead but lose anyway.

1998 Kevin Brown has the game of his life, throwing a complete-game, three-hit shutout for a 3-0 Padres win over the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in Game Two of the NLCS. Thanks in part to Brown, the Padres will win the pennant.

1999 Atlanta tops the Astros, 5-3 in 12 innings, in Game Three of the NLDS.

2000 Mets pitcher Bobby Jones throws a one-hitter for a 4-0 win over the Giants in Game Four of the NLDS.

2004 The Red Sox complete a sweep of the Angels with an 8-6 win in 10 innings.

2004 Florida releases relief pitcher Billy Koch.

2009 The Dodgers rally in the bottom of the ninth to top the Cardinals, 3-2, in Game Two of their NLDS. St. Louis led 2-1 entering the frame, but then the Dodgers score the tying run on a Matt Holliday error and then plate the winning run a few moments later.

2010 Atlanta ekes one out over the Giants, 5-4 in 11 innings, in Game Two of the NLDS. San Francisco nearly won in the bottom of the 10th when they had the bases loaded with one out against Braves reliever Kyle Farnsworth, but Buster Posey hit into a double play to end the inning.

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pat sullivan
pat sullivan

Alvin Dark wasn’t the manager in that game. Johnny Lipon was, according to the link. Dark checked out earlier in the season.

1940, “clinch their first World Series.”  So the Black Sox won in 1919? 1948, Al Orth died that day, he was born in 1872. 1934, I can find no reference to a controversial call in game 6.  It’s not impossible, there were 3 runners called out at the plate.  There was a famous controversy in game 7 when Medwick slid hard into the 3B on a triple, but that did not involve an umpires call.  So much debris was thrown on the field at Medwick that Landis told the Cards to take him out of the game, they were up… Read more »
Chris J.
Chris J.
Thanks for the corrections.  It should say 1st untainted Series victory in 1940.  As for 1934, there’s a book on the Gashouse Gang from about five years ago (I actually reviewed it for this site, though I’m too lazy to hunt the review down now).  In his talk of the Series, he just notes that some Tigers players groused about the umpire and his bad call – but the book never says what the call was.  (Added bonus: the book’s title claims it’s the “definitive” history of the Gashouse Gang.  Yeah, some definitive history when you can’t even look this… Read more »
Paul G.
Paul G.

In J. Thomas Hetrick’s book Misfits!: The Cleveland Spiders in 1899, he mentions the oddball three team doubleheader.  There were several three team doubleheaders in 1899 and, surprisingly, they were actually scheduled (or at least the ones he noted were).  These were not desperation make-up scenarios.  He also mentioned that the concept was not popular at the time; I didn’t check but I suspect there were none scheduled in 1900.